Macbeth and Tragic Hero

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Macbeth, a tragedy written by William Shakespeare in the 17th century, expresses clearly the strong pull that desire for power can have over a man. Macbeth, the title character of the play, is often expressed as being the villain of the tragedy. However, through studying the play closely it is clear to see that, rather than being an innately evil character, Macbeth is in fact a tragic hero, doomed by fate from the start to descend into the madness which he did. Had it not been for his hamartia and his interaction with the witches and his wife then the play would have had a very different ending.

Like every tragic hero in literature Macbeth suffered from a tragic flaw, or a hamartia. In his case, his flaw was his vaulting ambition, combined with a lust for power. Macbeth himself recognises this ambition in act I, scene 7 where he states in a soliloquy “I have no spur to prick the sides of my intent but only vaulting ambition”. This comment suggests that he knows that the only thing that prompts his actions is his ambition. While ambition alone is not in fact a bad trait, when added with a lust for power, this ambition can become dangerous. Did having these qualities mean that Macbeth was indisputably corrupt? No, they simply meant that he, like all human beings, had a flaw and a weakness. Indeed, at the start of the play, Macbeth was seen as the hero, being described as “brave Macbeth” in act I, scene II, and shown as a loyal and brave solider on the battle field. He is also frequently referred to as valiant by Duncan throughout the first act. That ambition always resided within him but did not cause a problem until the prophecy was made by the witches in act I.

It was essentially the moment that the witches first cast the prophecy over Macbeth that sealed his fate forever. Without the witches foretelling his rise to power as Thane of Cawdor and furthermore as the future king of Scotland, the idea would never have occurred to him. He was initially a modest...
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